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High Court okays plan to raze Arab village, build Jewish one in its place

By upholding the state’s explicitly racist plan for Umm el-Hiran, the court shows again that it cares more about Israel’s Jewish character than about democracy and justice.

The entrance to Umm el-Hiran. (Photo courtesy of Adalah)

The entrance to Umm el-Hiran. (Photo courtesy of Adalah)

One year ago, the unrecognized Bedouin village of Alsira won a major victory when the Be’er Sheva District Court refused to reinstate demolition orders against the entire village. The case set a legal precedent for defending other unrecognized villages threatened by the discriminatory Prawer Plan, which could forcibly displace up to 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Naqab (Negev). That cautious hope was dashed last week, however, when, in a 2-1 ruling, Israel’s High Court of Justice refused to cancel eviction orders against Umm el-Hiran, home to 700 men, women and children of the al-Qi’an tribe.

Bringing an Arab land case to the Israeli courts is always a risky venture, but many believed that Umm el-Hiran, like Alsira, had a strong chance of success. Contrary to the state’s initial claims, the villagers are not trespassers on the land; the Israeli military government transferred them there in 1956, after it displaced them from their original home of Khirbet Zubaleh in 1948. This fact was confirmed by the High Court as well as the lower courts. In other words, there is nothing illegal about the villagers’ presence.

More importantly, the state’s plan for Umm el-Hiran is explicitly racist. It wants to demolish the village and relocate the Bedouin residents to the town of Hura – for the sole purpose of building a new Jewish town called ‘Hiran’ over its ruins. Umm el-Hiran’s adjacent sister village, Atir, will also be destroyed to expand the man-made forest of ‘Yatir.’ The Jewish residents who are slated to move into the new Hiran, who are tied to the West Bank settlement of Susya, are currently living in an encampment in the forest. And while the current residents of Umm el-Hiran have been denied water and electricity for decades, the future residents of Jewish Hiran have already been provided those services by the state and the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

In spite of these facts, the High Court still found a way to defend the state’s discriminatory plan. Justices Elyakim Rubinstein and Neal Hendel wrote in the ruling that the villagers’ appeal should have been taken to another body, such as a planning committee, because they saw it as dispute over new infrastructure. Even if the Bedouins’ rights were being harmed in some way, the justices continued, the state was providing sufficient alternatives to compensate for their relocation. These arguments, however, are absurd: the problem is not that new houses will be built, but that the current inhabitants are not allowed to live in them. Moreover, the state’s ‘alternatives’ force the families to accept far less land than they previously had, to abandon their rural way of life, and live in an impoverished township mired by social troubles and government neglect.

The master plan for Hiran, presented atop an aerial view of Umm al-Hiran (The Arab Center for Alternative Planning)

The dissenting opinion by Justice Daphne Barak-Erez acknowledged these problems, in part, when she wrote that the state’s decisions towards the Bedouin villagers contained “many flaws,” especially considering that they are not illegal squatters. She suggested instead that the state reassess the compensation it is offering them, including possibly allowing the Bedouin to live in the new town of Hiran. But like the other justices, Barak-Erez still avoided addressing the state’s discriminatory intentions.

The ruling is not just an affront to the al-Qi’an families, who are facing their third displacement in 67 years. If the High Court refuses to intervene in a stark, racist case like Umm el-Hiran, then it has effectively given the state a green light to pursue the same agenda against other unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Naqab, as well as unrecognized Arab communities throughout Israel. Successes like Alsira thus become the precarious exceptions.

Furthermore, the ruling has proven again that the High Court is more interested in protecting the policies and character of the “Jewish state” than the principles of democracy and justice. The fact that an Arab village inside Israel can be as easily targeted as one in the Occupied Territories, despite their citizenship, has reinforced the fear among many Arab citizens that attempting to advance their collective rights through the Israeli legal system is illusory. As such, Umm el-Hiran is yet another reminder that the Nakba of 1948, which will be commemorated on 15 May, continues to be a vicious reality in 2015.

Amjad Iraqi is a Projects & International Advocacy Coordinator at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Adalah has represented the village of Umm el-Hiran before the Israeli courts since 2002.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      Now that we have read the propaganda, let us read the facts. Ben Dror Yemini Ynet News November 29, 2013 stated:

      “Let’s take, for example, the repetitive chorus of the past few weeks, which sounds like this: “The Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran is slated to be turned into Hiran, a community for Jews only, via the disinheriting and transfer of the Bedouins, in accordance with the racist policy of the State of Israel.” This is also a summary of the claims in a series of articles in Haaretz.

      After setting sail on the sea of lies, it’s worth returning to the solid ground of facts. First, the Bedouin members of the Al-Qian tribe, who are the focus of the current fuss, were transferred to the Yatir region of the Negev decades ago, of their own volition and at their request, due to a dispute with another tribe.

      Second, when Hiran was being planned, a little over a decade ago, there were only a few Bedouins there, if any. The move to Umm al-Hiran occurred mainly in the wake of the plans for the new town. Aerial photographs prove this.

      Third, only a small part of the master plan for Hiran is on the land occupied by the new squatters.

      Fourth, adjacent to the Al-Qian compound, the state built Hura, a proper Bedouin village, with paved roads, electricity and water infrastructure and more.

      Fifth, every family in the tribe is entitled to receive nearly a dunam of land. Even a bachelor over 24 is entitled to a plot of land, in preparation for future generations.

      Sixth, in addition to the free land, with free infrastructure development, each family also receives monetary compensation for the previous, illegally built house where it lived.

      Seventh, and here we’re in for a surprise, most of the tribe – 3,000 of the 4,000 members – actually felt this was a fair arrangement, and they indeed moved to Hura.

      Eighth, Hiran is not designated only for religious Jews, and also not only for Jews. Any Bedouin who wishes to buy land there is invited to do so and is entitled to do so. Of course, that would cost money. In Meitar, for example, Bedouins from the surrounding area decided to buy plots of land. No one stopped them.

      ….

      The words transfer and apartheid appeared in the campaign, in order to finger the culprit. This, of course, is the Zionist enterprise. This is what it did in 1948. This is what it is doing in the territories. This is what it is doing to the Bedouins. This is how incitement is created. This is how demonization is done. Haaretz readers have no inkling that Bedouin began to live in Umm al-Hiran only after the initiative to establish Hiran.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Felix Reichert

        “Eighth, Hiran is not designated only for religious Jews, and also not only for Jews. Any Bedouin who wishes to buy land there is invited to do so and is entitled to do so. Of course, that would cost money. In Meitar, for example, Bedouins from the surrounding area decided to buy plots of land. No one stopped them.”

        Since the land is owned by the JNF, with its racist policy of only selling land to Jews (upheld by the courts), at least this claim is clearly false.

        I’d love to see sources for all your other claims.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          The Israeli Lands Administration administers JNF lands in the Negev and leases land to Arabs at preferential rates. Yemini’s article indicates that land plots in Meitar, which is JNF land, were sold to Bedouin. So the claim is true that Bedouin can and do buy land in Israel communities.

          Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          The JNF can not discriminate against any Israeli citizens and all citizens can lease the land. Your claim to the contrary is garbage and since you are the one making such accusations you are the one that should supply sources.

          Reply to Comment
          • FOOP

            Even the JNF says they don’t sell to Palestinians because they don’t want to.

            “In a 15 August 2004 letter to Adalah, the ILA acknowledged that JNF Land tenders are only open to individuals enjoying the privileged status of “Jewish nationality.” The ILA cited that policy as bound by the Covenant between the State of Israel and the JNF. In December 2004, the JNF’s written response to the petition, Chairman of the Board Israel Yeheil Leket stated that:

            The JNF is not the trustee of the general public in Israel. Its loyalty is given to the Jewish people in the Diaspora and in the state of Israel…The JNF, in relation to being an owner of land, is not a public body that works for the benefit of all citizens of the state. The loyalty of the JNF is given to the Jewish people and only to them is the JNF obligated. The JNF, as the owner of the JNF land, does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state.”

            Source, a document submitted to the UN commission on human rights: http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/3822b5e39951876a85256b6e0058a478/258eda552cbb854a852571310058a594?OpenDocument

            And be sure to check the citations of the document before calling it garbage or un-based.

            Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Alexander Safian
          Middle East Quarterly
          December 1997, pp. 11-16

          “In practice, JNF land is leased to Arab citizens of Israel, for both short- and long-term use. Thus, the ILA has leased on a yearly basis JNF-owned land in the Besor Valley (Wadi Shallala), near Kibbutz Re’em, to Bedouins for use as pasture.19 Arab citizens have also leased JNF-owned land for housing purposes via a legal device that evades the restrictions against precisely such long-term use: The land in question is traded to the government so that it can be leased out and the JNF receives other land in return.”

          Reply to Comment
          • Bruce Gould

            For some reason Jews never get moved around like rocks on the landscape.

            Reply to Comment
          • Whiplash

            Bruce, Jewish tenant dwellers in Tel Aviv got moved out of their digs in the last 6 months to make way for corporate development by the owners of the land. However, they were not given free housing like the Bedouin. The Bedouin got free housing and compensation in addition.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Jello

      7 Bedouin, a camel and a tent were moved in the 1950s to this area. Now there are 500 Bedouin claiming ownership over land the size of a decent sized town, and claiming more and more land as new children are born. This is not how things work. They are squatters and the State is too generous with the offer of compensation it makes to them. They should all be kicked off the land at once with, at maximum, compensation for land occupied by 7 Bedouin, a camel, and a tent in the 1950s. That is how it would work for a Jewish family that squatted on a plot of land and this is exactly how it should work here.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      Information: Many Palestinian children and young adults work on Israeli settlement farms. How are they treated? This is a report from Human Rights Watch titled “Ripe For Abuse: Palestinian Child Labor In Israeli Agricultural Settlements In The West Bank”:

      http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/isrpal0415_forUPload_2.pdf

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Zero “Palestnians” since no “palestinians” exist in the world.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      Yet more artfully concocted lies and half-truths by the hasbara brigade. About the expulsions since 1948 and about the actual treatment of Jews versus Arabs with respect to land, water, government assistance, etc. The item above with respect to who gets water and electricity and land when tells the real story.
      It is Dror Yemini’s artfully concealing account that is propaganda, that is telling lies and half-truths and leaving out reams of information and concocting a false narrative starting in 1948.
      The real story of Umm-Al Hieran is given here starting on page 10:

      http://www.adalah.org/uploads/oldfiles/eng/publications/Nomads%20Against%20their%20Will%20English%20pdf%20final.pdf

      Reply to Comment
    5. Bar

      Pedro X knocks it out of the park.

      The amazing thing is that many Israelis cannot afford to buy a condo, much less get free land and much much less a free dunam of land in a space where all infrastructure is in place. Maybe Adalah can write a piece about discrimination by the state against Jewish Israelis?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        When the government uproots Netivot and tells its residents they simply have to go somewhere else to make room for Arab Israelis who just have to move there I certainly hope some organization like Adalah will write a piece about discrimination by the state against Jewish Israelis. I’m all for it. But the state should get a head start now by ripping out all the plumbing and electrical supply first for sixty years of Jewish existence and then put them back in when the Arabs move in.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Ginger Eis

      Folks, we have a winner! Lisa Goldman just announced the winner for the top-comment on twitter. Her name is Susan Jean Schwartz:

      Here is Lisa Goldman:

      “• Lisa Goldman @lisang
      Comment from a +972 reader who lives in New Jersey, in response to this article: .http://972mag.com/high-court-okays-plan-to-raze-arab-village-build-jewish-one-in-its-place/106637/ … pic.twitter.com/5azWiJYYJy

      Susan Jean Schwartz
      All of Israel belongs to the Jewish people and we will build where we choose. The Mizrahim, Sephardim and orthodox have much higher birth rates than the secular Ashkenazim who are now a minority in Israel. More Jewish homes are also needed for the immigrants who are coming from The Ukraine, France, Russia and the USA steadily. Half of my family has made aliya as I plan to do next year.”

      Congratulations Susan Scwartz! We look forward to welcoming you back HOME – to Israel.

      Am Yisrael Chai!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4pjKopHoHg

      Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        And because you are not a shameless hypocrit, according to Schwartz’ racist logic (which you support) every other country which doesn’t define itself as Jewish belongs only to its Nonjewish people which have the right to raze Jewish communities to make room for Nonjews, right?

        Whose policy are you really whitewashing, Ginger Eis?

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        How interesting. Have you noticed it’s the American AIPAC types on the sidelines not real Israelis in the game who use this rah rah cheerleader with pom poms phrasing? In her comment Eis blithely melds entitlement based on ethnicity and religion with an idolatrous fetishization of blood and soil to arrive at frank Jewish fascism served up with pom poms. Extreme nationalism based on tribalism at its core. This, on the 50th anniversary of the ties between post-war Germany and Israel! Eis is coming out of the closet. She’s emboldened by recent Israeli politics. She’s publicly adopting the stance of her idols Bennett and Shaked. “We’re racist and we don’t apologize for it.” As the first rate Amira Hass memorably put it (named top Haaretz comment by Ben, woo hoo!):

        “…In the justices’ consent to the demolition of Sussia and Umm al-Hiran, they have drawn a direct line linking 1948 to today. They have confirmed what Israel’s most virulent critics say about the country – that it is a colonialist, dispossessing entity. The justices have parroted what the state has been screaming all along: It’s my right to dispossess, my right to expel, my right to demolish and crowd people into pens. I have demolished and will continue to do so. I have expelled and will continue to expel. I have crowded people in and will continue to do so. I never gave a damn and never will do.”

        Eis vs. Hass. We report. You decide.

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          Amira Hass is a convicted crook. Check this out, Brian…eh…”Ben”:

          “In 2001, [Amira Hass] was found guilty in court of libel for presenting a false account of Hebron Jews kicking, spitting on and dancing around the corpse of a Palestinian shot by border police. Unfortunately for Hass, closed circuit television footage and a police investigation exposed her story as a lie, and she was ordered to pay 250,000 NIS in damages to the Jewish community.” http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=6&x_article=2076

          That’s right, Brian. “Eis or Hass”? You decide!

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The settlers are crooks extraordinaire. Massive crooks. Gangsters. Hass is great. The dishonest Camera propaganda is really offensive. It is written for idiots. Thanks for the reminder of this good simple word. Crooks. It’s a good simple non-Latinate, Anglo-Saxon word to define the settlers. Plain English is always best.

            crook
            kro͝ok/

            Middle English (in the sense ‘hooked tool or weapon’): from Old Norse krókr ‘hook.’ A noun sense ‘deceit, guile, trickery’ (compare with crooked) was recorded in Middle English.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Yadda yadda. Hass said that she had brought forward sourced information from the Palestinian community and said that it was the responsibility of newspaper editors to cross-reference it with other information from the IDF and the settler community. I believe Hass. I decided. She has enormous integrity.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Brian…eh…”Ben” is getting hysterical and freaking-out again. Ha!

            Go take your meds, psychotic moron.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Has the government uprooted the Jews from Netivot yet to make room for needy Arab Israelis? No? OK. Keep me posted. We’ll monitor the situation.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Brian …eh… “Ben” is now lurching from one extreme to the other emotionally ranting about unconnected issues and confirming to all his psychotic fixation on- and clinical obsession with Jews and Israel, while neither knowing nor caring about what goes on in his own country or elsewhere other than Israel, or even having a job to support himself. Keep fixating and “monitoring the situation”, you compulsive obsessive psychopath.

            Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            “”Ben” is getting hysterical and freaking-out again. Ha! Go take your meds, psychotic moron. “Ben” is now lurching from one extreme to the other emotionally ranting about unconnected issues and confirming to all his psychotic fixation on- and clinical obsession with Jews and Israel, while neither knowing nor caring about what goes on in his own country or elsewhere other than Israel, or even having a job to support himself. Keep fixating and “monitoring the situation”, you compulsive obsessive psychopath.”

            I understand your dispair. With no moral arguments on your side all that is left to you is a quite insane sounding attempt of character assassination. See what your support of imorality, inhumanity and inequality has done to you? But there’s still hope for you to transcend your group-karmic interprison, trust me.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            “David T.” huh? Ha!

            You are really psychotic, Brian…eh….”Ben”. Oh dear ….

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “a quite insane sounding attempt of character assassination”

            Thanks David T. Well put. You know one gets so inured to the inane drivel this character cranks out like a machine that one does not actually read it and one forgets how crazy it is.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Brian alias “Ben” alias “David T.” talking to- and consoling his psychotic self.

            You are really a psychopath, Brian. Time to take your meds.

            Reply to Comment
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